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Jordan: Tyrone must move up a level from last year to retain their title

Philip Jordan believes Tyrone's poor League form should not be a concern for the Championship
FRANCIS MOONEY

FORMER Tyrone great Philip Jordan believes the All-Ireland champions will have to improve on last year’s performance levels if they are to retain their title.

The treble Sam Maguire Cup winner expects to see a more competitive series in 2022, with the field of contenders widening.

“To defend the title, Tyrone need to be at a higher level than they were last year,” he said.

“Obviously it was Brian and Feargal’s first year, and we saw the improvement in the team as the Championship went on.

“You would hope that with another year under their belts, that there is more improvement in this team.

“But if Tyrone produce what they did last year, I would expect it will not be good enough this year.

“There’s a target on their back and the Championship looks wide open this year.”

The Ulster Championship, already the most competitive of the four provinces, looks even more difficult this season, with Armagh and Derry poised to challenge the established forces of Donegal, Monaghan and Tyrone.

“When there’s just two or three teams who realistically think they can win the Championship, you can peak to play those teams, but with the Ulster Championship and what’s beyond that, Tyrone will have to peak throughout the season.

“That’s going to be the challenge, and there’s so many good teams who could potentially knock them off their perch.”

History is not on Tyrone’s side. The county has never succeeded in retaining the All-Ireland title, and Jordan has first-hand experience of all three attempts to hold on to Sam.

He was a member of the triumphant teams of 2003, ’05 and ’08, and feels a contribution of factors contributed to the defending champions’ downfall in the following seasons.

“In different years, there were different reasons why it didn’t happen.

“When you win a first All-Ireland, it’s very difficult to replicate it. Armagh were probably one of the few that got very close.

“It’s only in recent years where it has become something that teams have been able to do, and when you look at a special team like Dublin, they have broken the mould.

“There’s always a challenge of motivation, I think that’s the big thing.

“And you need to stay clear of injuries. When you have a long season, that starts to take impact the next year.”

And he warned that the current crop of players, all of them first-time All-Ireland winners, will have to find a way to deal with those pressures.

“It was always going to be difficult coming in a year after winning an All-Ireland, all the players winning their first All-Ireland.

“I’ve been there myself and I know how difficult it is to deal with that.”

A more immediate challenge facing the Red Hands is to maintain their Division One status.

With just one win from four games, they find themselves in a relegation battle as they prepare to host Dublin at O’Neills Healy Park this weekend.

The Dubs are in an infinitely more precarious position following four straight defeats, but Jordan expects them to turn the corner before the series is done.

“Division one is very tight, and when you have the likes of Dublin below you as well, there would be concern.

“I think everybody expects Dublin at some point to get a couple of wins under their belts.

“Tyrone will be looking over their shoulder, but they have their destiny in their own hands.

“I don’t think anybody is writing Dublin off, and it would be foolhardy to do so.

“It’s a very dangerous game for Tyrone, and one that they probably have to win to secure their Division One status.

The four-time Allstar wing back suggested that a poor showing in the League to date should not be reason for concern over Tyrone’s ability to produce the goods come Championship time.

“I think Tyrone are in as good a place as any. I don’t think Feargal and Brian will be overly concerned about results.

“For these players, it’s not about League matches, it’s about the Championship, and that’s the only thing that counts for them.”

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